Nebraska Bishops Object to "Preventative Services" Mandate

Say Measure Fails to Respect Conscience, Religious Liberty

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LINCOLN, Nebraska, OCT. 7, 2011 ( The bishops of Nebraska included their voice in the Catholic campaign to express objections to a governmental mandate that would force all private health pans to cover abortions and sterilizations.

In the Sept. 29 letter, signed jointly by Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln and William Dendinger of Grand Island, the prelates requested and urged that the mandate be rescinded.

Since the mandate was proposed Aug. 1, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have invited Catholics to voice their concern to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the comment period, which ended Sept. 30.

They noted that the «interim final rule» issued by the HHS would «mandate full coverage of costs associated with sterilization procedures and all FDA-approved contraceptive devices and drugs in all but an extremely narrow category of health plans.»

«We hasten to add that this mandate would include drugs (e.g., ulipristal acetate/“ella”) that can kill early-stage human embryos both before and after implantation—thereby creating a contradiction, if not a violation, with regard to both federal and state statutory prohibitions on mandating coverage of abortion,» the bishops added.

The mandate, they continued, «fails to respect and protect religious liberty and convictions of conscience.»

The bishops explained that the measure would «unjustly, unwisely and unnecessarily prohibit both employers and individuals from purchasing any health-insurance plan that would not pay for sterilization and contraceptives,» and that it would also prohibit «issuers of insurance from offering any health plan that would not cover sterilization and contraception.»

«In effect,» they stated, «this would constitute an unprecedented, ill-advised governmental coercion of people and entities nationwide to accept certain health-insurance coverage regardless of any moral or religious objection they might have to it.»

Radical departure

The Nebraska bishops stated further that it would be «a radical violation of rights of conscience» and a «radical departure from this nation’s historic commitment to religious liberty.»

Given the Church’s moral objection to the use of artificial contraception and sterilization in favor of natural methods of family planning, the bishops say the mandate «would coercively force Catholic entities» into choosing between providing no health care at all, or providing health care that opposes its religious convictions.

This, the note stated, shows a lack of respect for «religious identity and integrity.»

The bishops acknowledged certain exemptions to the mandate, but lamented that they are «so narrowly constructed as to be incredibly inadequate.»

«What’s more,» they added, «the exclusion of ‘grandfathered’ plans has little if any significant meaning; future modifications of current plans are all but eventual and inevitable given changing needs, market forces and industry standards.»

«We consider it irrefutable that human fertility is not a disease and that contraception is not disease prevention and therefore should not be regarded as a ‘preventive service,'» the bishops stated. «From this perspective, it is abundantly clear that this proposed mandate would be more an ideological policy than a health-care- coverage policy.

«It is wrong and unjust for such a policy to be coercively applied.»

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